Wednesday, 30 July 2008

We're back!

We made it back to England yesterday. Thanks Natalie for the lift to the airport! We had to say our last goodbyes to Sam and Natalie in Dallas airport and then board the plane as a family of four! Our family suddenly seems very small, after living in community! We have made it to Essex (Sarah's mum's house) so far and will probably go home tomorrow. Its great having time to recover and we're looking forward to seeing Amy (Sarah's sister) when she flies back from Romania tonight. Uncle Sam has been promptly replaced by 'Nanny, Nanny, Nanny', Joshua who only infrequently puts two words together said 'look, Nanny' earlier. The boys are adjusting to being back and have been telling Nanny and Grandad all about 'America' (as if the base was all of it!)

We only slept about 4 hours on the plane so are still trying to catch up before resuming normal life. We'll let you know what that looks like once we've worked it out!

Sarah. (who is now on the same time zone so happy to accept phone calls in addition to any other means of communication! ;-) )

Sunday, 27 July 2008

preparing to go home

We leave tomorrow night so I have had a little think about out time here and have concluded that...

We will miss
-fab friends we have met here
-having Uncle Sam with us all the time
-swimming outside every day (this is what Tom said)
-not having to cook (some of the time anyway) and wash up
-meeting green lizards and other interesting creatures
-big fridges with ice dispensers!

We look forward to
-seeing our family and friends (wooohoooo)
-being able to walk everywhere
-catching up on sleep
-not having to walk round the dorm to get to the bathroom or kitchen
-Tom and Joshua actually sitting down at mealtimes and eating
-having time to process the last month
-playing Bob toys (this is what Tom said when i asked him!)
-finding some earings after losing one firefighting and one life-saving!


Saturday, 26 July 2008

I got a Cicada

After hearing these things making a huge racket in the trees around and about I finally managed to get a picture of the Cicada.

The shell in the background is the shell they live in before breaking out of the back of it, shedding the skin and becoming the beautiful creature you can see in the foreground. This is just an annual example but others are famous for having a life cycle of either 11 years or 17 years apparently with a vast number appearing periodically. They make a particularly unique sound with a long lasting rattle that rises in pitch.

For the last week we have been in a different classroom for the BST and we got this picture of a nest literally right outside over the boardwalk:


Floating on prayers...

We finally had our pool test this evening and I think we can both say that it was a very fun experience. The treading water was no problem at all - we both felt completely confident to do it and managed being in the water the whole time with no problems at all. We did all of the drills without lifejackets except when they were part of the drill and feel acutely aware of all the prayers that have been said on our behalf over the last two months.

We had to do a variety of different things:

  • jump in with life jacket and then swim 20m
  • tread water
  • get into liferaft from poolside
  • throw the sea anchor
  • get into the liferaft from the water
  • put on a gumby suit in less than 2 minutes (the big red sea survival wetsuits)
  • jump in in the gumby suit
  • form a string of people in the suits and manouver around while joined together
  • get in to the liferaft in the gumby suits (hilarious!)
  • turn over the liferaft after it had capsized (also good fun)
The good news is that we now have a five year Basic Safety Training certificate from the US Coast Guards meaning we could get a job anywhere in the world on a tug boat, a fishing boat, a container ship... (just a shame Sarah gets seasick!)

We followed up with an all you can eat Pizza meal at CiCi's where we pigged out a bit too much after all of the exertion. We have our last 3 hours tomorrow for debrief and people start leaving straight after.

We will miss all of the people on the course and hope to meet up with them again soon on the Africa Mercy.

Tommy and Sarah

Friday, 25 July 2008

Getting closer.. the end... we have ended with a couple of days of survival classes. We have now done four tests and just have the final water practical later! We have seen far too many videos of people in trouble at sea and falling overboard. Slightly more fun was practicing throwing life rings and seeing all the lifeboat equipment. We get to jump into one later in the pool - should be fun!

Poor Sam is having less fun than us as his days with the boys are long this week and tonight we are out 4-9 so he will have to put them to bed. At least its the final bit! We're looking forward to returning for a rest - hopefully having completed our American coast guard approved basic safety training!


Thursday, 24 July 2008

nearly there...

Today many people seem to be able to sympathise with each others sore shoulders from carrying the air cylinder and sore arms from dragging the heavy dummy out of the container yesterday. Rather appropriately we learnt first aid and CPR today (I say learnt but that might be a slight over statement). I amused Tom telling him about bandaging daddy's arm, although he totally did not understand why I wanted to move Tommy onto his front (recovery position) and onto his back (to assess whether he was breathing).

We have now been swopping photos so we now have about a million to show everyone! And we've pinched all John's - our fab neighbour/resident photographer!

Now we have to play games to eat chocolate or something...I just heard the word chocolate (and more to the point British chocolate....which i have been having withdrawal from...American chocolate being 'different'....) I am there....


Gary Parker on BBC Wales

Below is a link to an interview on BBC Wales with Dr Gary Parker the Chief Medical Officer for the Africa Mercy. (only available until 26th July)


Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Firefighting done!

Well we had a great time with the firefighting practical today. Temperatures over 100F, struggling to breathe and really sweating was just the preparation that came from standing in the sun in our full kit!

We started at 6 to make sure we got most of it done before the heat of the day. As it turned out we didn't sleep particularly well. Sarah was paranoid we would sleep through and because we couldn't set an alarm (it would wake the boys) she kept asking me what the time was all night. In the end we were woken up by our neighbour at 5:48! We still managed to muster in time though - a bit of bed hair though!

The drills were good fun. Sarah didn't like having the mask on her face (she is a bit claustrophobic) but she did really well to do all of the tasks - including one with the mask on and then a blindfold over that to simulate smoke.

We had five actual fire simulations. The first was a simulated electrical fire using CO2 extinguishers. Then we got our hands on a hose and stoppped a fuel leak. The third was a rescue of a 165lb dummy (blindfolded) followed by using a dry chemical extinguisher to put out an oil fire. Finally they set up a larger fire in the container and we went in in pairs to put it out.

The team spirit was really good but it was extremely hard work - especialy once it started getting warm. Three people didn't manage to finish the exercises due to the heat.

We finished at around 11:30 and headed straight for the pool.

After lunch (double portion - very hungry!) we had a writtten test which was fine for both of us and now we are ready to collapse. It has been a fun day!

firefighting day 1

Can you believe we spent all day learning about fires and firefighting. At the end of today we got kitted out for tomorrow so that we can start promptly by 6am! We are going into a container which is going to be on fire! Sounds pretty fun? Lets hope so to make up for the fact that Supernanny is on duty from 5.45!!! Uncle Sam is not so keen on that bit if the day! We have to do some tests to pass like getting dressed within 60 seconds and then putting on breathing apparatus within 60 seconds, then presumably actually putting out fires. It took about half an hour today to get all the bits together so that could be a challenge, but you have to just keep trying til you can do it apparantly! Its going to be hot - they have warned us that everyday this week is likely to be over 100 degrees, hopefully not while we are dressed like Fireman Sam and Penny Morris. Tom is so excited for us that we are learning to fight fires it should be fun showing him some photos.

Sarah - who is looking forward to taking many hilarious photos tomorrow to distract myself from the thought of having to enter a burning building.

Monday, 21 July 2008

this weeks schedule

I know we've given our schedule to some people and it looks at bit different so I thought I'd post it so you can sympathise with the long days!

Monday 7.45-12.30 and1-5 fire fighting instruction
Tuesday 6-10.30 Fire fighting practical, 1-3 fire fighting test, 4.30-5.45 meeting
Wednesday 7.45-12.30 and 1-5 CPR/first aid
Thursday 7.45 -12.30 personal safety, 1-5 survival
Friday 7.45-12.30 and1-4 survival, 4-9 water survival practical/dinner

Sounds fun??? So glad most people are far enough away they can't come and witness any of the above! Please pray that the fire-fighting day is not so hot and that we don't drown on Friday, so that we can fly home next monday!!!


Sunday, 20 July 2008

Goodbye Dr Dave and Helen

Dr Dave and Helen Lyth left us yesterday to return to the Mercy Ships landbase in Sierra Leone via their home in Scotland. Dave does VVF surgeries for women who have been damaged during child birth. Last year they did around 300 surgeries. Helen works with the women while they recuperate to give them basic literacy or numeracy skills. Some of the women require multiple operations and so are able to develop useful skills while at the centre. She also helps out at a street school which supplements the primary education offering for youngsters in Sierra Leone. Sometimes she has 50 children in her class (she takes the children who don't go to school at all).

More Info:

Dave and Helen Lyth Blog
Aberdeen West African Fistula Centre


Tyler Zoo

We had a lovely trip tp Tyler Zoo, yesterday (apart from the fact it was almost 100F and there was little shade). Here are some pics:

Saturday, 19 July 2008

we've finished class!

We've now finished the classroom weeks here. We just have a week of basic safety training, which I am sure we will be filling you in on! Today we now have an African lunch (yep, more food!), then some of us are hoping to join the group going to Tyler Zoo later.

We're having to say goodbye today to Dr Dave and Helen Lyth, although we hope that we might be able to visit Sierra Leone before long to see what they are doing and to visit some Eden missionaries.


Caption Competition...

Miriam: "Must ... inhale ... waffles"

Hot Breakfast!

We had a fantastic American hot breakfast in the family dorm today. We were treated to pancakes, waffles and lovely little skinless sausages.

It was good!

(Big thanks to the wonderful servers)

Friday, 18 July 2008

Happy Birthday Jenny!!!

Happy birthday Jenny - its fab having you guys as our neighbours (probably not so great for you when the boys wake at the crack of dawn ;-) ), hope we will soon be your neighbours for a lot longer! Sleep well!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

week 3

We can't quite believe we are part way through the third week of four here. We have just spent 3 days looking at world views and community development (and are still going on the community development I think). It has been incredibly eye opening, realising that we all look at things with our own cultural view point and that we really need to know the basis for the views we hold. It is incredibly hard to get your head around some of the things that are ingrained in other cultures, that even despite an education programme about germs people still refused to believe anything other than that evil spirits cause illness.

Kim told us about the Ship helping set up mini-buisnesses to help women become self-sufficient, they were taught different industries over a period of many months, all were making a profit, their families were being fed (having previously not), yet when the ship returned they had all stopped. The Ship folk tried to get to the bottom of why this happened, as it had appeared so successful - and it seemed that they thought this was the only way to become friends with the Ship people (and relationships are a high priority) that they had done it but ultimately they had a fatalistic midset - they belived they couldn't actually change anything or make a difference to escape poverty and feed their families. Its hard to get it from a Western perspective when we think the answer is simple!

Sam and the boys are all doing fine (although you can read his version on his blog at ) except for Sam feeling a bit under the weather today- obvious to the rest of us by the lack of food being consumed and seeming more subdued than usual.

We had our class pictures taken and were offered a family one - thinking this would be useful for any future newsletters we took the opportunity - however Joshua did not want to be parted from a visiting cat, so if you ever get a Farrell family picture with a ginger cat you'll know why!


Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Snake II

Here's the second snake (just round the corner from the family dorm):

(Dr Dave Lyth with the snake)


Sunday, 13 July 2008

Going to the rodeo

I can now say that I have had the Texan Rodeo experience. I've seen real cow-boys lassooing bulls, children riding sheep (you had to see this one to believe it -one of them was only 4!), men riding bulls and bucking broncos, wagon races, a monkey riding a dog who was chasing sheep, cowgirl barrel races and square dancing on horses. Who wouldn't think that was fun! The man who got squashed by the bull maybe? They played extreme poker too, so anyone that fancies a challenge- what you need to do is get three friends to sit round a table with you, get someone to let a bull in and see who sits for the longest! The thing Sam is holding was given to us when we arrived - Tommy requested that we didn't buy him any tacky souveniers- he was not bargaining that we would bring him one back for free!


Saturday, 12 July 2008

For Roger

Here are a couple of pictures of moths for Roger. They have been added to the bugs slideshow. (They are a bit blurred because of low light and poor photography skills):

the emotional rollercoaster

Its been very up and down with news on the cabin. Some hints that we might be able to go to the ship at Christmas, some still hopeful we can be there before or for Tommy to go first to start the academic year and we catch him up when a cabin becomes free. Tommy went to HR today and they said they thought it would not be possible before the next academic year, but that we should know in the next week if we can go in January. I am taking the very defensive tack of not believing anything hopeful until its definite as it was all getting a bit much hearing so many different ideas. It is hard for Tommy feeling like everyone he talks to has a different story and wanting so badly to go and teach on board.


we saw a turtle!

We've just finished a week in class and been for a lovely walk (thanks to Dave our tour guide!) and seen a turtle, some lizards and lots of small bugs. We're off to Tyler State Park for 6 hours of silent retreat tomorrow . That should give us a but of time to process it all, if we don't fry first - they have warned us that it may be over 35 degrees...

Friday, 11 July 2008

nearly friday...

After three days on living on purpose (which included all sorts of things about personality, strengths, finding your purpose...) we spent today talking about community living. We are under no illusion that living on the ship will bring many blessings but also many challenges just from living and working in such a small community. We talked lots about confrontation and tomorrow look at conflict resolution!

I have been to Walmart (thanks Natalie) to buy cereal and milk, bread and peanut butter (and ice cream and other slightly less essentials!) so that we don't have to trek to the dining room every day for breakfast and lunch as it is quite a challenge to get us all there, fed and back before class. Hopefully that will help make the day less stressful.


Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Wireless down

The wireless is down in the family dorm at the moment so we are not able to check our email or update the blog easily right now. We will try to get back online as soon as possible.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008


Just a quick note to say we managed to add a scorpion to the bugs slideshow.

monday again

The boys enjoyed seeing a tiny little lizzard this morning on the way to breakfast so that was a nice start to the day. They don't seem very keen on us leaving them but settle with Sam as soon as we're out of sight...keep praying for him, they've been hard work today...

We're back in the training room again, the start of this week is about living purposefully. Its being taught by a guy who has been a doctor on all of the previous ships and the current ship! It's not as heavy going as last week and we get to discuss lots of things in groups which breaks it up more. We're feeling positive about the next few days and will let you know how its going...

We managed to fit in swimming with the boys after dinner as we'd enjoyed it so much at the weekend- by the evening at least you don't burn your feet on the ground when you take your shoes off to get in the pool. I actually got chilly after walking back wet and showering the boys before getting dry!


Monday, 7 July 2008


Well I have now tried my hand at wallyball, I have some new reasons why not to play

1. God gave all the wallyball genes in the family to Sam, so maybe he did not mean for me to play
2. I was completely terrified of the ball
3. I couldn't even see the ball half the time, let alone hit it
4. I now have very sore arms and wrists, that tingle a bit still from my attempts

Still, no one beat me up for being so terrible so it could have been worse.


Sunday, 6 July 2008


You may have noticed the new slideshows on the side. I am trying to catalogue the different creatures we are seeing. All of them so far have been taken by me and come from within about 100m of our front door and include a male cardinal, a lizard and some big bugs. I have been so keen with my camera that people are now coming to get me when they see anything interesting. I'll add to the slideshow when I get new pictures and try to make it obvious when it has been updated.

Thank goodness....

...for a day off!

We've had a lovely quiet day with the boys, doing puzzles, playing cars.... Its been great to catch up with family on the phone and we've enjoyed the open air swimming pool this afternoon. We are less anxious about the treading water for a minute thing, but still need to practice the jumping in and being out of our depth bit! Tommy has been taking pictures of birds, bugs and other stuff. I have taken some of a lorry (!!!) for Tom's friend Ben as the cab's are so different, couldn't find a toy one in Walmart though which was a shame. I've had another, less overwhelming trip to Walmart to successfully buy baby wipes and have now experienced Sonic - a kind of drive through drinks place that does great strawberry shakes. It got me out of playing wallyball another night - I think my excuses may be running out and I might have to give in soon???

Saturday, 5 July 2008

More 4th July Pics

Here are some pics from our 4th July celebrations. The 2nd picture shows our neighbours and new friends Jenny and John Rolland (their blog is linked from our blog):

Happy July 4th!

Happy 4th of July. We have enjoyed seeing a little of the celebrations - lots of food all day long (although most days are like that here!), going to Cici's pizza, listening to everyone sing the national anthem before the fireworks!!! Even the plant in the classroom was feeling patriotic. Might have to disown Sam though as he seems to be forgetting that he is no longer with under fives after the hours of 5pm.

Friday, 4 July 2008

We got a snake!!!

We were walking back to the family dorm at lunchtime when the guy in front of us stopped and said "whoah".

There was a snake in the bush next to one of the doors out of the family dorm. Here's a couple of pictures as Mark attacked it with a broom (again click to see bigger):

Thursday, 3 July 2008

9 fab years later!

After the first nine years of marriage we are very excited about where we will be in the next nine years (and beyond...) together! Hopefully with a few more stamps in our passport!!! I keep smiling that Tom has been saying happy anniversary to random people today. Uncle Sam told him to say it to us this morning, but I'm not sure that he understands what it means!

We had to write a type of poem today, and despite not seeing each other's, Tommy's and mine were really similar. We both had the same theme in mind: God is faithful and we keep trusting our future to him. We feel very laid back about the uncertainty which is very out of character for me, which I think says a lot!


Sarah's profile

Ok so I can't work out how to make it look pretty like Tommy's but Helen asked for my profile too so here it is for all to comment on!!! Sarah

This is expected of me:

"This is expected of me" is your response to how you think people expect you to behave. It's your normal guarded and masked behavior.



Discovering Your Behavioral Blends

"C/S's" tend to always be right. They like to do one thing at a time and do it right the first time. Their steady and stable approach to things makes them sensitive. They tend to be reserved and cautious. They are consistent and careful, but seldom take risks or try new things. They do not like speaking to large crowds, but will work hard behind the scenes to help groups stay on track. They are motivated by opportunities to serve others and to do things correctly.

Controlling Your Behavioral Blends

Think more positively. Guard against the fear of failure. Focus on the possible. Be cheerful.

This is me:

"This is me" is your response to how you feel and think under pressure - how you really feel and think inside. It's your normal unguarded and unmasked behavior.



Discovering Your Behavioral Blends

"C/S's" tend to always be right. They like to do one thing at a time and do it right the first time. Their steady and stable approach to things makes them sensitive. They tend to be reserved and cautious. They are consistent and careful, but seldom take risks or try new things. They do not like speaking to large crowds, but will work hard behind the scenes to help groups stay on track. They are motivated by opportunities to serve others and to do things correctly.

Controlling Your Behavioral Blends

Think more positively. Guard against the fear of failure. Focus on the possible. Be cheerful.

Tommy's personality

Here's my personality (apparently). Just click to see it bigger:

You can say whether you agree or not in the comments (over achiever?)...


I've been to Walmart!

Walmart was like a double sized Tesco extra all on one floor. It took some time to locate the washing powder and then even longer to decide on what one. I guess there is the same amount of choice at home, except there you just grab one and ignore most of them! At least grapes look the same on this side of the world and that was a slightly quicker purchase, once I had found them! I then found a section of George (Asda back home) clothes, but the sizes are all different so that confused me too (as did the shoe sizes), I must've looked strange just standing there staring at the hangers! Never mind it was still fun to get off base! Sorry, mum there was no chocolate prezels that I could find.....will keep looking....anyway, the whole thing was a cultural experience....the woman packed each item into a different plastic bag, (there is no obvious trying to reduce waste or recycle anything here)...and I was waiting to type my PIN no in to pay and didn't see that I needed to sign my name - I don't remember the last time I had to sign for shopping....

We talked this morning about hot and cold climate cultures, I didn't appreciate just how cold our culture is and how much of a shock Africa is going to be!!! I guess we are being prepared for that by being in Texas. Plus as we wait to know the next step/timing for going to the ship we learn to plan less and become more flexible???

We've just done a psychometric test for personality types that will be used somehow next week - seemed pretty accurate so will be interesting to see what is said about that....

Would be very happy to receive emails/mail/facebook messages/any communication from the outside world!!!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008


I thought I'd better post to update people on how Sam is getting on looking after the children. I have to say he has been fantastic! The children are already settled enough to be left with him that they don't cry when we go to class in the morning and he has been really flexible to help us get the most out of our time here.

He has also been a great asset in terms of building community amongst the gateway team. Firstly within the family dorm and now reaching out the rest of the group, he has been brilliant at initiating community building activities. Today the boys started the task of making pictures for everyone on the course - beginning with residents in the family dorm. This was an idea of his own that has already brought smiles to peoples faces.

Thank you for your prayers for him and the children.


Sorry we haven't posted for a few days...

It has been quite busy starting classes. A typical day sees us up around 6:45 to get over to eat breakfast from around 7. Class starts at 8 with lunch at noon (although it seems to over run most days). We're back in class from 1 until dinner st 5. We've had a few extra things in the evenings so far too, along with getting to know the others in the family dorm.

It has been really nice meeting our neighbours here. They are really lovely people from different backgrounds and we have enjoyed spending time with them. Last night we taught everyone how to play Perudo, after an emergency trip to Walmart for some dice. Needless to say neither Sam nor I won!